I’ve seen it and experienced before. Trying to be someone I’m not. Most would consider this, FAKE.

You’ve likely seen it before too. Family, friends, co-workers… that social media “expert” on the Facebook ad, who talks like he has the internet figured out.

They talk a good talk, but if you were to take a hard look at their lives and if they would take a hard look at yours, maybe they would find someone who…

  • Tells others how to fix their problems before solving their own.
  • Preaches life transformation before dealing with their own demons.
  • Consults before becoming a student.

The truth is many people want to live like someone they haven’t become yet.

You want to live now,  like the person you could become, without putting in the work of becoming that person.

Ultimately this is a character issue. The leaders we admire most have a deep well of character that is displayed in what they teach, but most importantly how they live. We can feel their genuineness in how they speak because it’s echoed in how they live.

They have put in the time to be able to speak from a place of genuine experience. They talk it. They walk it.

As leaders what we say should always match how we live. If not, we are in danger of becoming fake leaders.

However, the biggest danger isn’t the possibility of fooling others, but convincing yourself you’ve become someone you aren’t.

Here are 3 signs you are in danger of becoming a fake leader and how you can change for the better.

1. You teach what you’ve never done well.

We live in a Youtube world. Where anyone can present themselves as an expert or more knowledgeable than they actually are.  All you need is a smartphone and the title “How to _______”.

Almost instantly, you can cast yourself as an expert on leadership, cooking or whatever you want.

There is nothing wrong with sharing what you know. However, there is something fake about teaching what you’ve never done well.

I see this all the time with young leaders (including myself) who want to teach before figuring things out themselves. They want to teach how to preach before learning to connect with their audience. They want to write a book on leadership before leading others well. They want to lead a team meeting, before being a good team player.

You should not teach what you’ve never done well. Before looking to train others, evaluate what you really have to offer them.

Here are few questions you can ask yourself…

  • Are you seeing the results you want before teaching it to others?
  • Have others (team members, other churches, leaders, etc.) already asked for your help, before you offer it to others?
  • Would you want to hear from you if you weren’t you? (This isn’t about being in love with your own wisdom. It’s about being confident in the failures you’ve had and the conclusions God has brought you through.)

2. You ask to be heard.

Fake leaders ask a question so they can give an answer. Their motive is to be heard more than to learn.

Shamefully, I’ve done this before. Leading a conversation more than listening to a person. My agenda over theirs.

What I’m learning is that leading a conversation is a great strategy to be heard, but it’s a horrible way to be a friend.

Sometimes as a leader, you need to lead a conversation. I get that. But you should always be listening. You should always be in tune with the person so you can make adjustments on the fly. Making sure that where you are leading them is actually where they need to go.

A few questions you can ask yourself… 

  • What questions do they need me to ask them? (Sometimes we ask questions for ourselves, but what does the person you will sit across from need to talk about?)
  • What am I learning from those I lead? (If you are unable to answer this, it means you either aren’t listening enough or you think you have a monopoly on wisdom in your organization. Hint… you aren’t always right and God gives other people wisdom when they ask for it. So seek to listen to others and you may hear from God.)

Bonus Tip (This is obvious):

  • Bring a notebook with you to your next meeting. Take notes on what the person is saying and think through them later. Don’t always answer on the spot. Be wise and give yourself time to process things. (Proverbs 29:20- Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than them.)

3. You confront what you would reject.

Fake leaders are always willing to confront someone about their problems but are the first to reject it themselves.

Defensiveness is their default. Openness is foreign. And touchy is likely descriptive.

Before we go too far down the rabbit trail, realize that we can all be defensive. All GOOD LEADERS have bad days of not responding well to criticism but also needing to confront others. Double-edged sword of being a leader and also being an imperfect human.

As well, the leader of an organization, team, family, you name it… can’t and shouldn’t have all voices in their life as created equal. You must choose whose voice you will seek out for feedback.  But all leaders must be aware of what happens to their heart, evidenced by how they respond when they are confronted by anyone.

This is an area where fake leaders are unwilling to grow. They don’t want feedback. They want applause.

Great leaders ask for feedback often. They can’t get enough of it. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about wanting to see the real you being displayed to others, and in the process, begging Christ to mold you more into His image.

I love what I heard Christine Caine say recently. She prays that she would have thick skin and a tender heart.

Great leaders don’t let negative feedback destroy them. They have thick skin. But they also want to look so much like Jesus that they have developed a tender heart that is sensitive to the feedback of others.

They don’t automatically dismiss what others say because they believe God could be revealing a character flaw through them.

Questions to ask yourself…

  • When was the last time you asked for personal feedback?
  • When was the last time someone gave you feedback and you responded well?
  • When was the last time someone confronted you and you changed?

Becoming a fake leader isn’t intentional. No one wants to be seen as a fraud. But you can only become who you want to be by putting in the work. So don’t teach what you haven’t figured out, yet. Wait and then share with humility. Don’t share only to be heard. God has more to teach you through others. And be open to feedback. You aren’t anywhere close to perfect.

What I’ve come to find is that you know you are on the right path towards becoming a leader worth following when you realize just how far you still have to go. Great leaders are increasingly more aware of their inadequacies and it causes them to be more grateful for the team who follows them and the God who forgives them.